Hughes’s Poem and King’s Chiasmus
This chapter reconstructs a trip taken by King and Hughes to Nigeria in November of 1960 to celebrate the inauguration of Nnamdi Azikiwe. With each man looking on, Azikiwe ended his inauguration speech by quoting the poem “Youth” by Langston Hughes. This chapter exhaustively documents how King himself had been rewriting ideas from this poem and using it throughout his sermons, speeches, personal letters, and even church reports on no less than seventy different occasions. By combining Hughes’s ideas with the words from another poem by Robert Burns, King constructed a memorable and poetic line organized around the principles of parallelism and chiasmus thus allowing the ideas of a black American and white Scotsman to model the idea of integration. As a result of this trip, Hughes dedicated his cantata “Ballad of the Brown King” to Martin Luther King.
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